The Pregnancy and baby charity Tommy's has spoken out about the dangers of turning to home dopplers and apps which say they detect a baby's heartbeat.
Pregnancy is a time of great happiness, but also often one of brooding and anxiety.
While a mum-to-be may be doing everything in her power to ensure her pregnancy is healthy and stress-free, there are times when it's difficult to feel in control, and when mum will need reassurance that everything is OK.
Capitalising on this are certain products which Tommy's , the largest pregnancy and baby charity in the UK, urge parents to NOT use under any circumstance.
Home dopplers and apps are on the rise - and they're both problematic and potentially dangerous.
While Mothercare has discontinued the sale of home dopplers, these - as well as apps which claim to track your baby's heartbeat - are still widely available.
As the charity explains to MirrorOnline, however tempting it is to resort to these products, they remain a risk to a baby's health.
"The accuracy of home dopplers/apps are dependent on their user and the ability to interpret the findings of the doppler," Kate Pinney, Tommy's midwife, explains.
"There is minimal regulation for these type of apps and often it is unknown the amount and type of testing they have been through."
Kate continues: "Midwives train for years to recognise what is a normal fetal heartbeat and what to worry about, as well as being able to identify that it is indeed the baby’s heartbeat that they are listening to as this can be surprisingly common to be confused with the placenta and mother's heartbeat."
In fact, "a midwife will use a doppler as part of a holistic assessment, to assess the wellbeing of the mother and the unborn baby, it is not used in isolation.
"National guidelines (NICE) actually advise that listening into to the baby with a doppler at routine antenatal contacts is not necessary, but can be done if the mother requests it.
"A midwife would use a doppler if there are concerns about the baby's wellbeing and the mum is less than 24 weeks' pregnant, however this would be part of a full assessment.
"When a midwife listens into baby’s heartbeat, they are listening for more than just to see if it is present or not, the rate, variability and pattern of the heart rate is all very important.
"This is usually only possible to see when doing a period of continuous monitoring, rather than just listening in with a doppler for a short period of time."
There are several risks to using a home doppler, Kate explains.
"The most common is false reassurance.
"For example if a mum is worried about baby’s movements, the temptation to listen in with a home doppler and be falsely reassured by this is high, and can delay a woman going to her maternity unit for a full assessment.
"Another risk is that the dopplers can double the mother’s heartbeat to sound like the baby’s heartbeat, so it is easy to listen in and think that you are listening to baby when actually it is the mum’s heartbeat but just being doubled.
"In addition, the pulsations from the placenta can also be picked up thus providing room for further confusion."
By using an app or doppler, mum may in fact increase any anxiety being felt "if they try to listen to the baby too early in the pregnancy when the doppler cannot pick up a heartbeat yet.
"This can understandably cause a lot of worry and anxiety for the mum."Generally the earliest a midwife will offer to listen in is at about 16 weeks, as before this is can be difficult to detect.
"Or even later on in pregnancy, if the baby has changed position or lying in a way that is difficult to pick up the baby’s heartbeat and the mum is unable to find it, this understandably would cause much worry and anxiety."
"Listening in to a baby’s heartbeat for a minute or so provides very limited information, it really only tells you that the heartbeat is present and not much more, it does not have any predictive value," Kate says.
"An holistic assessment needs to be completed of the mother’s and baby’s wellbeing.
"A far more useful indicator of baby's wellbeing is their movements.
"If these are reduced or change from their usual pattern then this could be an indication the baby is not well, and we would always advise any pregnant woman who has concerns about her baby’s movements to contact her midwife or maternity unit straight away.
"In addition, if a pregnant woman notices any new symptoms or has any concerns with regards to her or her baby’s well baby then to always speak with their midwife or ring their maternity unit for advice and be reviewed if necessary."
On the topic of discontinuing the sale of home dopplers, Tommy's is clear
Kate says: "Listening to a baby’s heartbeat can be such a precious and treasured moment for parents to be, but this can be done in a safe way with the midwife without risking causing anxiety or provided false reassurance.
"We would always encourage pregnant women to seek advice from their midwife if they ever have any concerns about their pregnancy."
You can read the original article HERE